The World Heavyweight Championship – exposing Ukraine hypocrisy
The double standards of the Western world between Yemen and Ukraine scenarios go beyond political narratives and are reflected in the boycott of Russian athletes and sports events.
In the mainstream media’s ongoing coverage of the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, much attention has been paid to the numerous high-profile Ukrainian Boxers who have returned to the Eastern European country to serve as military reservists for Kiev.
Former three-weight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, current unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, and former world heavyweight champion brothers, Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko – current Mayor of Kiev and instrumental in the Euromaidan colour revolution protests – have all featured heavily in western media reports, the clear message being portrayed that despite their immense wealth and fame, they have all bravely returned to Ukraine to face off against the forces of a Hitler-esque Vladimir Putin.
This coverage also comes amidst the widespread blacklisting of Russia in the sporting world following last months’ launching of the current military operation, with FIFA suspending Russia from the upcoming World Cup, all world title Boxing bouts being suspended in Russia, and Formula One canceling the 2022 Russian Grand Prix.
Therefore, Monday’s announcement that Oleksandr Usyk would face Britain’s Anthony Joshua in a lucrative rematch in Saudi Arabia, having defeated the Englishman on points in front of a 65,000+ crowd at London’s Tottenham Hotspur stadium last September, demonstrates the glaring hypocrisy of the western establishment - with Riyadh having led a seven-year-long war on neighbouring Yemen, one that has led to mass starvation and the estimated deaths of 85,000 children.
To understand this widely differing approach to both Russia and Saudi Arabia by the sporting world, the wider geopolitical and financial factors at play in the West’s relationship with Moscow and Riyadh must be brought into play.
The world’s largest exporter of oil, Saudi Arabia also serves a key role in maintaining US-NATO hegemony in the Middle East by acting as a political and military bulwark against Iran, with Tehran having been a former key-western ally until the 1979 Islamic Revolution saw the US and UK-backed Shah Pahlavi overthrown and replaced with the anti-Western and anti-Zionist Ayatollah Khomeini.
In March 2015, following the takeover of the Yemeni capital Sana’a by the Houthi rebels - long accused of being backed by Tehran - a Saudi air campaign would begin in order to restore Riyadh’s favoured Presidential candidate, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, to power.
Using US and British-supplied bombs, and with military advisors from both countries on hand to assist in the selection of targets, the Royal Saudi Air Force would go on to target the agricultural, sanitation, and medical infrastructure of Yemen, leading to mass-starvation and the largest recorded Cholera outbreak in history, a situation exacerbated even further by a Saudi blockade preventing food and medical supplies from entering the country – one that still remains in place despite Riyadh’s ceasefire announcement on Tuesday.
Despite this seven-year-long onslaught receiving minuscule coverage by the corporate media, the global condemnation of Saudi Arabia following the October 2018 murder and dismemberment of Saudi-dissident Jamal Khashoggi, would result in Riyadh pursuing a campaign of ‘sports washing’ – a tactic in which high-profile sporting and media events are held in the Gulf Kingdom in order to sanitise its image worldwide.
Indeed this was highlighted only last Friday when a missile strike led by the Yemeni armed forces against a key oil refinery in Jeddah brought the hosting of the Formula One Saudi Grand Prix into question, the race track being a mere ten miles from the site of the explosion.
Usyk’s upcoming opponent, former unified world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, also fought another lucrative rematch against American Andy Ruiz. Jr in the Saudi town of Diriyah in December 2019, the most high-profile Boxing match held in the desert kingdom to date.
However when it comes to Russia, having launched the current Ukraine operation in response to almost nine years of Western provocations following the 2014 Euromaidan colour revolution, including the production of bio-weapons on its borders, no such opportunity is presented to hold prestigious sporting events - unlike Saudi Arabia, allowed to host the upcoming world heavyweight championship despite being responsible for a seven year long genocide in Yemen.